In sales and marketing, it’s the ultimate question. How do you get the right information in front of a prospect at the right time?
It’s especially tricky now that customers self-direct their learning online.
As you grow your stable of customer case studies and success stories, organize them so that a prospect can find exactly the type of story of interest to him.
That usually means sorting – and enabling search of – your stories by industry, type of solution, product and maybe geographic location.
Here are a couple of examples.
Major software company SAS organizes its customer successes by industry, solution, technology, country, alphabetically, and with a "Search All" capability. If they have a particular case study, the searcher will find it with this thorough approach.
Oracle organizes theirs in a similar way, by applications, technology, services, industry and alphabetical.
Both companies also feature a few of their best stories on the search page for quicker access.
Such a search function may be too much for organizations with a handful of case studies. If so, create a list of your stories by headline and include a few descriptive words about industry, product, type of solution, location or anything else relevant to your audience.
Put yourself in the searcher’s chair and make it as easy as possible.
Have you seen any great examples of how companies organize their stories online?
During the NFL playoffs, referees' calls can ultimately decide a win or loss.
Their job is to know the rules and make sure that players follow them. But sometimes their calls inspire boos from the coaches, players and fans.
Freelance copwriters are not unlike referees.
On a project, writers are often in the role of referee - enforcing STYLE rules.
Depending on the types of projects you work on, anywhere from two to maybe 8 people may be reviewing your thoughtfully written copy.
There's at least one marketing manager, if not more, and perhaps a PR or sales person. Then there's maybe a product manager.
If you work on customer case studies, an additional three to four people at the customer's organization may review your story.
Chances are, there will be differences of opinion about whether "website" is one word or two, whether titles should be capitalized or whether a comma goes before the last "and."
To solve these differences - and maintain consistency across all communications - you need a set of rules.
And if you're the writer, be the editorial style referee.
But how do you do so diplomatically?
Throw the book at 'em
Newspapers and magazines have long followed style guidelines, whether Associated Press style, Chicago Manual of Style or their own versions. Companies need such guidelines as well for all their communications.
Freelance writers should usually follow the style of the companies they write for, unless those companies have no specific style guidelines.
If the organization doesn't have its own editorial guidelines, bring your own style. When you send first drafts to your contacts, let them know that you follow style X.
When questions come up during the editing process, simply refer to the specific style guidelines as your reasoning for doing something like leaving out that extra comma before the last "and" in a sentence.
Several companies I've written for over the years have had their own style guidelines. They set down in writing exactly how they want certain aspects of their copy to go.
In many cases, their style is a hybrid. They mostly follow a standard style guide but have modifications for their communications.
Learn and follow those guidelines closely.
Earn your stripes
As you merge edits from multiple reviewers, make sure that the copy follows the established style. If someone makes changes that conflict with those rules, just let them know you follow company style.
It's like saying, these are the rules we play by on our turf.
It can be hard to be a ref, but it's part of the writer's job.
Have you ever been boo-ed for refereeing edits?
Today's corporate executives don't want a sales pitch. They want valuable content that helps them solve their business problems.
White papers - a sibling to the customer case study - do just that.
A September 2009 survey by Eccolo Media backs that up. In the study, which polled 501 executives involved in B2B technology purchases, 84% rated white papers as moderately to extremely influential in purchasing decisions.
If you're a marketer who is under the gun to produce quality leads in 2010, you'll want to check out the upcoming White Paper Success Summit 2010, put on by my friend Michael Stelzner, author of Writing White Papers.
The completely virtual 2010 Summit starts Tuesday, February 2 and runs through Wednesday, February 24.
Tomorrow, Jan. 21, is actually the last day to get the summit at the early-bird rate.
In addition to himself, Mike has brought together an all-star team of white paper experts, including Bob Bly (The White Paper Marketing Handbook), Brian Carroll (Lead Generation for the Complex Sale), Jonathan Kantor (Crafting White Paper 2.0), Roger C. Parker (White Paper Design That Sells), Joe Pulizzi (Get Content, Get Customers), John Jantsch (Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide), Jill Konrath (Selling to Big Companies), Ardath Albee (eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale) and Gordon Graham, to mention just a few.
"Without costly ads or fancy designs, white papers are saving businesses by establishing thought leadership, attracting steady streams of quality leads and helping businesses close deals," says Stelzner. "Once a white paper is done, it can continue to reliably deliver leads for months or years to come."
No need to book pricey hotel reservations, pack a bag and trudge off to the airport to attend this conference. You can relax and enjoy the online Summit from a comfortable chair in your home or office. The sessions are spread over an entire month so you can fit them into your schedule.
Learn how to generate a steady stream of leads with white papers.
(Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for this event, but I only promote events that I truly believe are valuable to my audience - and this is one of the best.)
PowerPoint gets a really bad rap. It seems indispensible in business presentations, yet it can be so darn boring.
That's because most presenters do it the same way - a virtual storm of bullet points with a few photos slid in.
But maybe there's help - and hope - in PowerPoint 2010.
In her recent blog post, Paula Tesch of Duarte shows us the new cinematic capabilities of PowerPoint 2010. Duarte Design's Five Rules for Presentations gives practical presentation tips - and does so using the new PowerPoint.
Pretty impressive! It's hard to believe this is PowerPoint.
I still wonder how difficult it is to use the tool to create something so dynamic. But I'm excited about its storytelling possibilities.
We tell stories with words. But also with pictures.
In fact, depending on your industry, images can be just as important as the narrative.
If you're a graphic designer, or create a product that people can see or hold, then your prospects clearly want to see examples of that.
An Australia design firm, Toast, found a compelling way to present its case studies visually.
Toast showcases high-resolution images of a client project in a Flash slideshow, with explanatory copy about the project underneath.
Each image shows a different angle or element of the work.
Here's how Toast tells a case study about packaging designs for a new coffee brand.
It's a sharp visual presentation with talk about how Toast approached the project. The only thing I would add is more text around the end results of the packaging design.
Seen other examples of case studies presented in compelling visual ways? Let me know and I'll highlight them here!